As the co-host of a fabulous National Walk Your Dog Week celebration, the impression might be that I am a perfectly committed dog walker who never skips a daily dog walk. One might think I live in my walking shoes and jump up for a walk every time one of my fit dogs stirs. While some of this might be slightly true, I am not and have not always been a flawlessly regimented daily dog walker. However, my dogs health, happiness and longevity matter enough to me that I am always determined to do my best for them. Research shows that what is best for them is as simple as regular walks. Below are some ways that I make daily dog walks happen:
I simply tell myself "walk everyday." I will sometimes add on to that by committing to walk more than once a day or to walk farther or faster but the more simple a goal is the easier it is to keep. I will leave myself notes or reminders to simply "walk today" and I make it happen. Sometimes I don't do it until 10PM but something is better than nothing! And I know the dogs agree.
Jason and I both have extremely variable schedules with work and travels so setting an exact dog walk time is tough for us. But studies have shown that when people put things that are considered leisure time on their calendar, they are more likely to do it. It helps Jason and I make time for what matters if we add the morning dog walk to our calendars or set a reminder for the evening dog walk. It is surprising how much easier it is not to skip it.
Ah, those days when I hug a pillow tightly over my head when the alarm goes off to the sound of rain on the roof. Days when I want to have just one more (four hour long) snooze and not to walk the dogs. I used to have a dog who would agree but after years of walking Wilhelm in the rain, he is now very fond of the water and a super fit dog. So don't skip the dog walk because of the weather. Find and have ready dog walking gear that makes you and your dog comfortable in any weather. I have my rain skirt always ready to go as well as mittens and hats for a cold snap. There's also sunscreen and sun hats with my dog walking gear but I don't use those much here in Cascadia.
I can be really hard on myself if I miss a dog walk or if I feel like the dogs didn't get a long enough walk. Remembering that it is okay to have several short walks or that just one walk is better than nothing is hard. So maybe typing out this advice will help me be okay with my simple "walk everyday" goal and perhaps it will help others too.
As a reactive dog walker, I know how hard it can be to go out for a walk. I have walked in tears more times than I care to remember. I have also dragged myself out to walk the dogs when I was ill. The funny thing is that I am always glad I went for a walk. Always. 100% of the time. Seriously. And guess what? The dogs always behave better after a string of consistent walks as well. The best way to remember all of the benefits of our walks is to take notes.* I record how I felt before and after as well as how the dogs behaved. I take note of the differences in the amount of leash pulling, leash reactivity and just general good behavior of the dogs on our walks. Sometimes looking back at these notes motivates me to get going even when I really, really, really don't want to.
Goal setting and keeping is very individual. What works for me might not work for you. What works for me now might not work in five years. The important thing is to keep trying. It has taken me years to find the right dog walk training techniques, the right leashes, the right shoes and the right dogs for walking. I'm joking about that last one but I have walked a lot of different dogs over many decades. Every walk, with each uniquely individual dog was different and special in it's own way. I'd never give up those wonderful memories.
Always consult with a doctor before beginning a new exercise or prior to changing your exercise routine.
How did Walk Your Dog Week go? If you're a blogger, share your dog walking stories, triumphs and tribulations on the Linky below. If you're a reader, please share your #DogWalkingWeek inspiration with Cascadian Nomads and My GBGV Life on social media. Everyone can get motivated by clicking around the links below and by continuing to walk your dog(s.)